Astounding papercraft skills result in this working robot

It would have been very hard to believe this is made from paper if we hadn’t seen all the parts being built. As a still image it looks neat, but the speed at which those paper gears turn in the video after the break will certainly leave you slack-jawed. It really is a walking robot made using papercraft (translated).

These are actually being sold as kits, but there’s not much in the way of materials. You’ll get six sheets of paper, some skewers which act as the axles, and a bit of elastic band which stores potential energy when winding-up the model. The genius is in the design, which is printed on those sheets of paper. The build process involves plenty of delicate work. Dozens of cuts lead into hundreds of folds, and that’s before assembly even starts. We’ve never considered building a ship in a bottle, but this might be right up our alley. If you need to give a gift to a tinkerer this should show up high on the idea list.

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How to Control Your Cheap RC Car with a Computer

[Jon] wrote in to tell us about his programmable RC car, and the Howto guide that he’s made. According to him, this project can be constructed with $9 worth of parts plus an Arduino and a small toy car. So around $50 if you’re starting from scratch.

At it’s core, this project is about using the Arduino to allow your computer to send signals to the toy car. For this, [Jon] has included JAVA code that should be able to run on Mac, Linux, and PC operating systems. The Arduino code is also included.

Most small RC cars like those used in this project switch on at full speed or turn off, but this project allows the PC/Arduino to give the car PWM signals to control the speed. As pointed out in the video after the break, this can be a bit jerky at slow speed, but still a neat effect. A decent amount of soldering is required to get this project working, but it may be a good project especially if you have some of the parts already available! Continue reading “How to Control Your Cheap RC Car with a Computer”

Lite Brites fade, but LED clocks are forever

litebrite-clock

Ahh, the Lite Brite.

What could be more fun than pushing dozens of little plastic pegs through a piece of black paper in order to create a pixelated, though colorful image? Well, I can think of quite a few things more engaging than that, and luckily so can [Lonnie Honeycutt] over at MeanPC.

While contemplating what to build with a pile of LEDs, his daughter came into the room with her portable Lite Brite. He thought that the pegs she was using looked awfully similar to the LEDs on his desk, so he did some test fitting and was surprised to see that they fit almost perfectly.

[Lonnie] thought that the toy would make an excellent clock, and his daughter happily agreed to let Dad do some tinkering. A few hours, an Arduino, and some Charlieplexing later, he had a nice looking clock that his kids were sure to enjoy.

If you’re interested in seeing more about how constructed, be sure to check out his YouTube channel and Instructable, where he happily provides all of the build details.

Fisher-Price Record Player plays Stairway to Heaven

[Fred Murphy] has an old Fisher-Price music box/record player that has lost many of its disks over the last 40 years. It’s a very simple device – concentric grooves in a plastic disk have plastic bumps that are picked up by the tines of the record player ‘cartridge.’ Seeing as how this toy is basically a music box, [Fred] figured making his own records would be well within his grasp; he did the reasonable thing and made a Stairway to Heaven disk for a toy music box.

To figure out where to place the ‘bumps’ for the musical tines, [Fred] built a small tool in Visual C# 2010 that allowed him to place notes on a scale and generate the requisite GCode for the disk. After sending this file to his CNC mill, [Fred] had an acrylic disk that played Led Zeppelin on a child’s music box.

Of course, this Instructable wouldn’t be complete without a video demo of Stairway blasting out of this record player. You can check that out after the break.

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Cardboard Kinetic Creatures

Browsing around today, I saw this little kit on kickstarter called Kinetic Creatures.  These flat packed models are made from cardboard and can be assembled without tools. Their mechanical legs are operated either by a simple cam that you turn by hand or by a motorized attachment. I love the basic idea here. This is the kind of thing that my 6 year old would really enjoy doing that also serves to get him into making things (he’d probably insist on motorizing it with scraps, he collects dc motors and has quite a collection).

I did notice that they mentioned using it as a robotic platform, adding custom electronics to the empty space allowed in the body of the animal. This initially got me quite excited, thinking that I could, for $30 have a 1 foot tall quadruped platform that looked awesome, then I realized it can’t turn. I guess I’ll have to hack it a little bit to put separate drives in for each side. That would be a cool upgrade they could offer.

Have any of you tried to do turning with a set of only 4 [jansen] legs before?

Pep up your house cat’s boring wintertime life

With winter upon us, and all the windows shut, [Garfield] and [Socks] can get a little restless. But [Dino] is determined to keep his furry friends entertained through the cold dark months. He hit the junk box, and used some interesting fabrication techniques to build the Chase-a-Mouse motorized cat toy.

The toy is popular with the cats because it incorporates two traditionally satisfying features; something to chase, and an obstacle to chase it around. The base of the unit is a long plank which is held up from the floor by a couple of inches. The loop of rope which spans the board’s length has a mouse attached to it with about six inches of string. When the motor is flipped on it bounces and jerks its way around the circuit, darting in and out of the space below the base.

As you can see in the video after the break the motor is a bit loud. [Dino] used the sweeper motor from a Roomba for this. It might freak the kitties out at first, but curiosity will get the better of them eventually. It’s a quick build, and we love the drill-turned-lathe that is used make the wooden pulley for the system.

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Rudolph toy hacked to announce incoming email

email-reading-reindeer

Tis the season for hacking, and [Nick McClanahan] at the GadgetGangster is certainly showing off his Christmas spirit with his most recent creation. He had an animatronic Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer toy sitting around and thought it would be fun to convert him into an email reading machine.

He tore open the toy, removing its innards, disconnecting the built-in speaker and servos from the original PCB. He then extended wires from those components outside of the body before reassembling the toy. The reindeer is controlled primarily using a Propeller Platform, with an E-Net module and a small audio amp taking care of network communications and audio output, respectively.

Most of the work is done by the software [Nick] is using, which allows Rudolph to periodically check his Gmail inbox for new messages. When the message count increases, the reindeer springs into action, moving and lighting up his nose before announcing the sender’s name.

He’s using a phonemic voice synthesizer for the output, which does the job, though we would go mad if we had to listen to it all day. Since the reindeer is connected to his LAN, it might be feasible to run the data through a more robust voice synth on a PC, returning a better-sounding audio clip for playback.

Check out the video below to see a short clip of Rudolph in action.

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